By Michael Cerio 

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The frothing masses pressed in tight at Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Wednesday night for a date with Run The Jewels.

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The building was the most sold out, chanting “RTJ” as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” led the perilous pair onto the stage for their tour opener. Beneath the massive hands of their logo that hung above the sparse stage, Killer Mike and El-P unleashed a backlit barrage of cuts from their latest album.

Run The Jewels (credit: Michael Cerio)

Run The Jewels (credit: Michael Cerio)

Not only was this RTJ’s first set since the Christmas surprise of their third release Run The Jewels 3, it was also a milestone of sorts for El-P. Wednesday marked the first time the rapper and producer played the Electric Factory stage since an ill-fated opening slot for the Beastie Boys in 1998.

“Nineteen years ago I had been here before” remembered El-P in an extended story break after their initial assault of songs. “With my old group Company Flow.”

In the midst of high tension and a tour of Germany, El-P and the group were tapped to open for the Beasties. Unfortunately, their Electric Factory performance was cut short after the MC started a verbal fight with a dismissive audience member and they were booed off stage after three songs.

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Tonight would be very different.

This crowd would swell and slam like a spastic sea as the duo let loose song after song with ferocious results. Even though it was heavy on fresh material from a two week old album, the place was packed with shout-along joy.

Killer Mike stalked the stage and was booming – clearly happy to be back at it after a grueling 2016. The two are effortless, not only in song but in conversation. Stories were tagged with jokes and ping-ponged between the two in an old school and organic way. RTJ aren’t just fierce, but they’re funny.

Run The Jewels (credit: Michael Cerio)

Run The Jewels (credit: Michael Cerio)

Totally backlit by a wall of lights, their silhouettes were swallowed by swirling colors, simulated sirens, and anything that would snap your senses.”It looked like a hockey match for parts of this show” Killer Mike said of the captured crowd.

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On this night, Run The Jewels showed what’s best about hip hop, distilled in a pure form. Two passionate MCs that work symbiotically to create something equal parts aggressive and enjoyable. It’s a community created, a classic and cathartic appreciation, and maybe just what we need as we start 2017.